Resolving Tenant Landlord Conflict
Renting space, whether a home, office, shop, or open field, is not a transaction. It is an agreement among two or more parties to be in relationship. Tensions, disputes, and conflict occur in every relationship. That's okay. When they do, don't debate rights - Start a conversation.
Doing the RelationshipA working, healthy tenant-landlord relationship depends on honest, direct communication, and a focus on mutual concerns and interests. It must be nurtured to thrive. Even when relations are poor, respectful and clear communication practices can resolve problems and avoid crisis. Whether you are a tenant or landlord, these steps will help you develop a constructive relationship and protect yourself at the same time:
Connect - Take your tenant or landlord to coffee. Have a conversation with no agenda. Ask about them. Tell them about yourself. You are in a business relationship, and it depends on some personal connection.
Report - if you have a problem, communicate appropriately. Whether it is a leaking roof or chronic late rent payments, first call the responsible party. Then send an email confirming the conversation and what actions each of you will take. If the problem is serious, print out the email and deliver it in person or by mail.
Legal Notices - Some things (not all of them bad) require special handling. A legal notice must be in writing (ink on paper) and either personally delivered or sent in a manner defined by the lease or local law. If landlord has not fixed a leaky roof, or if tenant ignores requests to pay rent on time, always send or deliver a communication following the legal notice rules.
Keep It Cheerful - No matter how you feel, written communications should be polite and professional. If you end up in small claims court for some reason, the judge will notice the positive tone.
Avoid text messages - texting is a great way to make a coffee date, to confirm that the plumber is on the way, or that the check really, really is in the mail. However texts should NEVER be used to communicate important or complicated messages.
Put the Relationship in WritingNever, ever rent real estate without a written agreement. If you have paid for a hotel room, you've signed a contract covering hours or days. The greater the asset value, the more complicated the purpose for renting it, the longer the planned duration of the relationship, the more important it becomes to express details in writing. Do so at the very beginning, in order to establish the relationship and chart its course.
Landlords - Invest in a lease document provided by a professional resource. It should be customized for your property. Clarity on business terms is every bit as important as legal points. Get help from an attorney who has experience leasing and managing real estate.
Tenants - Read what you sign, and get help understanding what you read. Invest in an attorney review, or access the abundance of tenant resources available online, including through Avvo.
Dispute ResolutionMake sure your lease contains a mediation provision. Not arbitration - never agree to mandatory arbitration ahead of a controversy. Doing so limits your ability to negotiate. Mediation, on the other hand, is voluntary, confidential, and the parties determine the outcome. Often a neutral third party (the mediator) can help parties restore a working relationship, even when anger and fear makes that seem impossible.
Housing and other leasing disputes manifest in concrete ways - a roof leaks, a resident cannot pay rent, people are disrespecting one another. These problems often point to chronic relational conflict. The best remedy to such conflict is to establish constructive dialogue about mutual concerns and interests, rather than debate rights and the law. Mediation can do that - swiftly, flexibly, and affordably.